On Monday morning, a large bus adorned with “Making Week” decorations drove towards the Clark College campus at the Columbia Tech Center. As the bus disembarked, people in blue Washington Association business jackets walked through the parking lot, scrambling for a chance to visit the school’s mechatronics lab.
The Mechatronics Lab demo is part of the Society’s Manufacturing Week bus tour, which begins Thursday in Olympia and ends in Yakima in October. 13.
“We all know how hard it is to recruit workers, so this is one of the places where we’re trying to help with that change,” said Carl Douglas, director of the Clark College Center of Excellence for Semiconductor and Electronics Manufacturing.
Douglas goes on to talk about the importance of the Clark program and describes the different types of training students go through.
“If we walk students through the program and they take a full two-year mechatronics program, they’ll get paid more and they’ll get experience from internships and practicums and similar programs,” Douglas said. “But ultimately , they’ll learn ideas, they’ll learn features, they’ll learn products that put everything together.”
The bus tour enters Clark County on day three, starting at the university, then visiting ADI in Camas, before heading east to the Columbia River Gorge.
This is the sixth year of the event and it also coincides with the National MFG Day event.
The association estimates that 265,000 people work in manufacturing in Washington. The state’s goal is to double that number within the next 10 years.
“No. The number one concern that manufacturers share with us is their concern about supply chain viability — about having a healthy and robust supply chain, especially as they go through the seasonality of manufacturing,” said the association’s president, Kris Johnson. .
About 13 percent of manufacturers source materials domestically, according to the association’s most recent survey, Johnson said.
“We’ve seen some early signs of reflux,” he said, adding that reflux won’t happen overnight.
Johnson said Washington is the 10th largest wafer producer in the United States. “All of them are located in Clark County.”
But to sustain the semiconductor supply chain, Johnson pointed to two things: people and power.
“Clark County is really leaning toward addressing the workforce,” Johnson said. Exploring High School, Clark College’s mechatronics program, internships and apprenticeships are just some of his examples.
However, there is power. As manufacturing doubles, energy demand also doubles.
“That means we need more energy to go this route. And it has to be carbon-free, it has to be reliable, and it has to be affordable,” Johnson said.
Analog Devices is trying to stay ahead in job growth while working to double local output.
But there are not enough local talent to fill the required positions.
“That’s why we work with these schools on things like apprenticeship programs, because we hate stealing from other companies in the local area,” said John Michael, general manager of ADI’s Camas-based facility. “If talent is already there, it’s just taking it away, not refilling the pipeline.”
Michael noted that Congress approved the recently passed CHIPS and Science Act this summer, saying it is critical to local workforce development.